Project Management History: From the Earliest Times to 1900


Project management refers to activities that schedule, coordinate, propel, and ascertain resources, actions, as well as procedures to achieve specific shared goals within a certain period. Project management entails application of knowledge edge, skills, and proficiencies in meeting project objectives within a specified period and for clearly defined reasons (Reid, 2006). A project refers to a unique, specific, and temporary work that applies within a controlled environment. Projects are created to achieve specific goals within a defined period. Projects have a clearly defined beginning and an end regulated by factors such as time and financial resources. Projects are used to achieve inimitable goals and targets that add significance to something. Project management is a discipline that requires the application of distinct active procedural skills and systematic plans to achieve the desired results within the projected period (Reid, 2006).

One of the main challenges faced by project managers is the need to meet all goals and objectives despite numerous limitations identified during the planning process. Examples of project limitations include time, financial resources, scope, and logistical challenges. Project managers also face the challenge of managing project resources in a way that allows a project to meet all its objectives. Unlike managing a business or an organization, project management involves the coordination and supervision of a team that works on different elements of a project (Reid, 2006).


Project management is applied as a tool for achieving better organizational success. Its ability to link project results with organizational goals makes it easy for organizational leaders to organize and manage resources in an effective manner. Project management has a unique focus of adding value to organizations by adhering to goals, corporate culture, available resources, and plans. The process of project management applies in five steps. The steps are initiation, planning, execution, assessment, and project closure (Reid, 2006). Project management, as a discipline relies on applying ten knowledge areas to add value to something. The knowledge areas are amalgamation, expenditure, scope, superiority, human resources, communication, time, procurement, risk management, and stakeholder management. These areas have propelled project management into the global arena as a professional discipline, a scholarly discipline, and a tool for strategic organizational proficiency (Chiu, 2010).

History of project management

Project management applied as a casual carry out until the 20th century when it started to come into sight as a distinctive line of work. People applied the concept of project management for the first time during the Egyptian era. At the time, people applied various project management tools and strategies to manage their resources and schedules for various undertakings (Chiu, 2010). Civil engineers, architects, and master builders such as Thomas Telford applied this approach in planning and managing various activities. Studies have shown that project management developed out of civil construction and engineering. Even Henry Gantt, who is referred to as the father of project management, was an engineer by profession.

He created the infamous diagram called the Gantt chart. The diagram illustrated how to break down numerous tasks into a systematic schedule that allows one to achieve the desired outcome within a specific time. American soldiers successfully used the diagram during World War 1 to construct ships (Chiu, 2010). In 1931, the diagram was successfully used during the construction of the Hoover dam. By the mid 20th century, organizations were already using the concept of the diagram to manage their projects.

The term project management was coined in 1954 by a general in the United States Air Force called Bernard Schreiber. In 1957, Remington Rand and DuPont developed a crucial element of project management called the Critical Path Method (CPM) (Chiu, 2010). CPM aimed at estimating the nature of activities required to effectively, complete all project phases. The CPM proved to be an effective tool for managing financial resources during project implementation. Another element of project management called Program Evaluation Review (PER) was created in 1958 as an approach to understand tasks and estimate the amount of time required to complete a single project task (Chiu, 2010). In 1962, the United States Department of Defense designed a work breakdown structure. This structure is applied as a tool for organizing a project into smaller components arranged in a hierarchy depending on their level of importance (Shirley, 2013). The focus of this design is to establish and achieve project objectives within the required time.

In 1967, the International Project Management Association (IPMA) was started in Europe (Chiu, 2010). Its original name was the International Management Systems Association (IMASA) because it included project management associations from various countries.

IPMA has grown into a global association with members in nearly all the continents. In 1969, another major step towards developing project management happened following the launch of the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the United States. PMI is used as a strategy for promoting project management as an independent and professional discipline (Shirley, 2013). The institution offers numerous project management courses. Some of the certificates that this institute offers include certified associate in project management and project management professional, among others (Chiu, 2010). In the year 1970, project management techniques got a boost when Winston Royce created the waterfall method. Royce created this model to introduce professionalism and order in the way people implemented various phases of a project. According to the model, each project phase should be completed in perfection before starting on the subsequent phase.

By the turn of the century, various companies had managed to develop software for project management concepts (Shirley, 2013). The software is used to making the work of developing project designs, responding to change, planning, as well as monitoring and evaluation easier. In 2006, the concept of total cost management was applied for the first time in managing a project. The concept helps in managing the cost of projects by controlling, eliminating, and reducing unnecessary expenses during various phases of a project. By 2009, the demand for project management skills was escalating at a very high rate. According to government reports on the state of unemployment in the United States, project management is among the top five sought after skills in the job market (Shirley, 2013). The government stressed the importance of project management courses because the discipline has the potential to provide numerous job opportunities.

As the number of people using the internet continues to increase on a global scale, project managers have also developed ideas on how to integrate the tool in their work. In 2010, project managers were applying the concept of cloud computing to create virtual workplaces that would help people acquire project management skills. According to the United States government reports, the number of people working in virtual workplaces is estimated to grow to 40% by the year 2020 (Shirley, 2013). The number of mobile applications developed since the year 2012 to provide project managers with basic tips for achieving success with their projects has emphasized this prediction. The mobile applications have allowed project managers to monitor and manage their projects anytime, regardless of where they are. The internet has changed the way people manage their projects (Shirley, 2013). According to management experts, this has helped to propel project management as a discipline with the ability to add value to resources and at the same time, provide numerous job opportunities.


Project management applied as a casual carry out until the 20th century when it started to come into sight as a distinctive line of work. The term project management was coined in 1954 by a general in the United States Air Force called Bernard Schreiber. The history of project management has many similarities with that of the industrial revolution. People continue to be more innovative and open-minded about improving their quality of life. This has helped project management to grown from an informal practice into a distinct profession. Elements of project management had improved since the 20th century when civil engineers applied various concepts to identify its value and potential. Over the years, various people have developed numerous approaches to project management. The approaches have been applied to great effect, as people have a better understanding of the discipline. The most important element of project management is the need to make meaningful considerations about the objectives, scope, timeline, and cost of a project despite the management approach applied.


Chiu, Y. (2010). An Introduction to Project Management: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Reid, A. (2006). Project Management: Getting it Right. London: Oxford University Press.

Shirley, D. (2013). The History of Project Management. New Jersey: Cambridge University Press.